After a lazy morning in Soppong we once again strapped our stuff to the bikes and headed to Pai. We had toyed with the idea of skipping Pai altogether, since last time we weren’t overly impressed with the place, but in the end we decided that the food there was pretty good so we’d give it a try.
The ride there was excellent, with lots of corners, clear skies, and beautiful scenery. It was the clearest day we’d had since Chiang Mai. When we arrived we decided that staying out of town was definitely the best thing to do… then proceed to get a little bit lost and checked into a really nice place that turned out to be only 2 minutes walk to town. Once we realised this error we considered moving, since we were all tired and didn’t want to be kept up all night with Pai’s party scene. In the end we stayed and it all turned out well. We were on the riverbank in some nice gardens so it was a good place to relax. We checked out our favourite food places and found that the town had changed a lot, and is now even more overrun with tourists that 2 years ago. Since we were in northern Thailand’s party town, we went bar hopping for a while before heading to one of our favourite dinner places from last time.
Once we found out that the town was going to be packed the following night for a big concert, we thought that was our signal to leave so we once again packed up the bikes and headed back to Chiang Mai. Sadly we once again felt that Pai wasn’t our kind of place, and although we could understand some of the attraction for the hordes of tourists coming here, it was just not really for us. We loved a lot of the little food places, and the accommodation standard is great. We guess we’re just too spoiled in Luang Namtha with the beautiful mountains and nature that Pai with all it’s tourists and small amount of surrounding nature isn’t enough!
The first couple of hours of the ride back to Chiang Mai was also really beautiful, with nice views and lots of hairpin corners. As we approached Chiang Mai the traffic thickened, and our journey was soon over.
Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop with Tim has been so much fun and has had lots of unexpected highlights. We were all wondering if we should go ahead in the beginning with all the fires and smoke, it was so worth it though and we’re already thinking about when we can do it again to see all of the amazing views that we could only see through smoke haze this time. There are several places we’d love to spend more time in, and some awesome roads to take us there. Definitely looking forward to next time!
We spent the morning wandering around Mae Hong Son’s temples. There were a lot of Burmese temples and buddha images as well as Thai, and also a small museum in one of the temples which was really cool. We decided that the next mission would be riding up the hill to see the hilltop temple, even though the smoke haze was so thick we knew there wouldn’t be a view.
Hitting the road to Soppong was next; we had met up with another biker the night before and he told us that the smoke haze between Mae Hong Son and Soppong was the worst he’s seen on the Loop, however it seemed that we got lucky when we did it because although it was smoky, it wasn’t bad.
The road was nice, and even with the smoke there were some nice views. When we arrived in Soppong we chose an awesome place to stay, Soppong River Inn, and met Joy the owner who had lived in NZ for a while and then returned to Thailand and single-handedly designed all the lovely and different rooms. We swam in the river for a while to cool down and spent some time hanging out on our balcony.
Soppong was a beautiful place that we could imagine spending a week or so in, just swimming in the river and enjoying the surroundings. Although there isn’t much there, Joy and her guesthouse really made our stay. Perhaps we will be back!
It would be hard to imagine a better day on the road than what we had today! The morning started off lazily, like all our other mornings so far. We decided to leave the National Park via Mae Cham, and as soon as we left the park we were driving on amazingly scenic, vegetation dense, windy road. Within only about half an hour we saw a sign for a waterfall that we decided to stop and see. It was such a spectacular setting; even the carpark looked like nature’s paradise. We walked the 100m or so into the waterfall and it was so lovely that we ended up spending the best part of an hour there. We climbed out onto a large flat rock in the middle of the falls, and watched birds, literally hundreds of butterflies, and of course the waterfall.
After lazing in the sun there, we thought it best to hit the road again. The narrow windy road continued for probably another hour or so before we stopped in Mae Cham for lunch.
We then continued along less scenic roads towards Khun Yuam; as this journey progressed it got more and more smoky as we got closer to the forest fires in Khum Yuam.
Although we were all a little apprehensive about driving through all the smoke, even that, unexpectedly, was very enjoyable! Of course our view was very diminished, which was the only undesirable part, as the trees burning were all sandalwood or a minty/euycalyptus type trees (like the ones in Laos we use to start fires and smell great) and so it was the best possible smoke experience because it smelt so good.
We tried to stay in Khum Yuam but because of all the forest fires the only hotel was full with film crew for news channels so we headed on to Mae Hong Son.
This, as it turned out, was the best decision to end the day on a high! The road was the best road we’ve been on, with huge sweeping corners the entire way and excellent quality roads. We got to go fast for the first time today, and the endless corners were just so much fun. (The roads prior to this were just too narrow and small to go fast).
On arrival in Mae Hong Son we rode around the lake and found some cute little bungalows to stay in and then wandered around the town on foot for a welcome break from sitting on motorbike seats all day. We had dinner and then returned via the lake with beautiful views of the stupa reflecting in the lake. A good day all round!